Alan November moderated this session, featuring Kathy Cassidy from Prairie South Schools in Saskatchewan, Michelle Anderson, Principal in Deer Creek Schools in Oklahoma, and Larisa Shelkin, Founder of the Global Technology and Engineering Consortium in Boston.
November started by a story about asking "What is the most important 21st Century skill?" to the CEO of the biggest bank in the world. The banker said, "empathy," because we need people who can evaluate the dynamics of a big project from the perspective of others. The worst people at this are Americans.
He asked some West Point teachers the same question, "Patreaus had asked his staff to read, 3 Cups of Tea. The mission had changed from win the war to win the peace. Empathy is a critical skill in this endeavor.
Michael Wesch, said empathy as well.
Blocking social media that allows students to interact with students around the world is counter intuitive to making students successful in the global economy!! Many schools network policy is completely opposed to their mission statement!
Kathy Cassidy teaches first grade, and her students have their OWN blog. Initially she started it to give her students an audience. They start blogging the first week of school.
She has a new principal this year, what if they make you shut this down? She would miss the connections with the world, with the experts who comment, share and contribute to the learning of her students. It would tie my hands!
She is connected with a school in Brisbane, Australia and Kinderkids in New Hampshire. The kids think of them as classrooms next door. They actually know more about what's going on in those classrooms than the physical ones next door!
November talked about the essentialness of allowing our students to make these connections!
Larissa has lived all over the world, working as a field engineer, and now helps her students connect with lab partners in other parts of the world. She saw a gap in how we are currently educating our students and the need to develop a global workforce. Every student will work and live in a global society. They need the skills to do this. The students work on wind turbine designs and also work with professional mentors in high tech companies who provide problems for the students to solve. They use modeling software and to work on this project and they now have other companies lined up. They also incorporate "global diversity knowledge" and "intercultural communication!" Her two students shared their experience as well.
The problem they are working on to make a wind turbine as efficient as possible is very open-ended. Their lab partner in England
They have 4 desktop computers for student use with Skype windows up for small group communication, as well as a large screen set up with another computer to see the large group. 5 Skype windows open at the same time for group work. This is similar to what Tim Berndt, our Project Lead the Way teacher at Edina High School has done this year with some of his classes!
Students are the same age (12 and 13), but the students in England are a bit farther along with their STEM work, thus they are the mentors for the student, and thus they are the "go to" people for asking the questions. The students feel more comfortable asking the student expert rather than their own teacher. The students felt going back to a traditional model, would be BORING!
November shared that as soon as students are bored, their achievement level goes down. (Someone actually did an expensive research study on this!)
The real time modeling incorporates principles that involve many disciplines.
Michelle Anderson received an e-mail from a teacher in England who ended up on her school Website, because they were studying "Tornado Alley." This led to a collaborative project using Skype into the 5th grade classroom in her school. Many of her students had first hand experience with the devastation of tornadoes. Ultimately, this lead to the teacher coming to Oklahoma to visit!
November wondered if colleges preparing administrators were incorporating the global perspective? For Anderson, collaboration and making connections is part of her DNA. She starts with one class and when others inquire about it, she brings them in as well. They have a culture where, "all of us is smarter than one of us!" She's found funding through grants to travel to Europe to visit the schools they collaborate with.
November asked about leaving the school and having faith that things will be ok. Anderson noted, "Let's be honest, the secretaries can run the school!" "In some ways, I'm the most insignificant person in the building!"
It's obvious that her modeling and leading by example has created this empowered culture!
Cassidy shared how the student blogs become the online digital portfolio of her student work. She includes video and pictures of her students to give parents a window into the classroom on her own blog. She explains to parents why and what will be happening. The kids post their AudioBoo reading fluency, Video in the Common Craft style, along with pictures of their art work right on the blog, and video showing how they would use manipulatives to solve math problems. Students and parents also comment on other student blogs.
November noted that she probably knows far more about her students since she has started doing this. She said by all means!
Parents who may have been leery at the beginning of the year, comment on how wonderful the experience has been. November asked the audience how many school districts have policies preventing this type of opportunity, and many hands went up!
The students from the Global Engineering and Technology Consortium shared their presentation that includes video of their collaborative efforts.
Moving forward in the next 5 years, Leslie is working on creating a Global Learning Consortium. This might be a great opportunity for further collaboration with our district's Project Lead the Way classrooms.
November asked, "how would superintendents get their district involved with this type of collaboration?" Anderson shared that every grade level in her school has collaborative projects going on with a specific country. She hopes to have continued teacher exchanges to further build relationships. She finds that when teachers meet face to face, it is easier to make curricular connections.
November closed by inviting us to challenge students to find schools in England that are studying the American Revolution. He noted that to actually find the schools, you need add this to your search:
site: sch uk
His point is that we have not taught kids how to be competent at getting connected. These mechanics are essential!